Thamesmead Town 3-7 Portsmouth - It was a dream for us to get this far, says proud Danny Harris

Wednesday 03rd December 2014
The FA Youth Cup Second Round
Wednesday 3rd December 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

THAMESMEAD TOWN manager Danny Harris says he was proud of his side after their FA Youth Cup fairytale run was ended by Portsmouth.

The Ryman League Division One North club defeated Greenwich Borough (5-1), Croydon (3-1), Herne Bay (1-0) and Dartford (4-3) to reach the Second Round for the first time in the club’s history, but their run was ended by quality League Two opposition.

Portsmouth opened the scoring after only 131 seconds through seventeen-year-old striker Conor Chaplin, who signed his first professional contract at Fratton Park last month.

Pompey raced into a commanding 4-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Brandon Joseph-Buadi, Chaplin’s second and Adam May.

But Thamesmead Town scored their first of three goals on the stroke of half-time, through striker Jack Keaveney.

Chaplin skied an early second-half penalty, before he scored his hat-trick and Portsmouth’s fifth goal, before Thamesmead Town midfielder Kieran Mulkerring capped an impressive performance by scoring a 30-yard scorcher.

Portsmouth immediately went up the other end and scored through left-back Brandan Haunstrup, before Keaveney netted his second goal of the game and Mead’s third, before Portsmouth substitute Fahad Bwakarambwe drilled home the final goal of the game.

Harris (not the striker who plays for Vanarama Conference side Dartford) was a proud man at the final whistle.

“Very proud of the boys tonight. I think they gave a real, real genuine performance,” he said.

“They’ve come up against a very good side tonight, who showed real quality movement.

“Their number 10 (Chaplin) was outstanding. That’s why he’s signed a pro-contract. I think he was the main difference in the first half.

“We lost the second half 3-2 and we had a couple more chances ourselves. We could have scored five against a pro club, so we’ve got to take that on board and actually think, you know what, that’s a great effort.

“The first team manager (Keith McMahon) is out there and he just said to (my players) there’s three or four of our players who, with real dedication, real hard work, they’ve still got an opportunity maybe to bypass this level and go to the next.

“Going forward, we’ve got to say it’s been an amazing run in The FA Youth Cup.  I think we were the last team standing in Kent.  We’ve had four tremendous wins up to this point.

“The FA Youth Cup is an amazing old competition. It’s a great competition. I think it’s one of the big Cups in football.

“I’m very, very proud of them and I think they can go on and achieve great things if they work hard, stick together, listen to us and stay as a unit, as a group. I think we can really progress.”

Thamesmead Town progressed further in the competition than League One side Gillingham, but they faced an uphill struggle after Portsmouth converted their first chance.

May penetrated the Thamesmead defence to put Chaplin through on goal, and he comfortably stroked his right-footed drive past sixteen-year-old keeper Max Bradley.

Harris said: “Unfortunately the movement was very, very quick.  The boy took the goal brilliantly. He really was clinical.”

But Thamesmead Town squandered an excellent chance to equalise with only five minutes on the clock.

Left-back Billy McGarrigle clipped the ball forward and James Sutherland took the ball in his stride, cut into the penalty area and steered his left-footed shot across keeper Alex Bass and agonisingly past the foot of the far post from eight-yards.

“James Sutherland cut in beautifully, great chance,” said Harris.

“He worked hard, got himself in a great position, slightly dragged his shot wide of the post but it was all of his own work. He was unlucky.  On another day he may well have had finished that and got us back at one-all.

“When you’re the underdog you do have to take these key moments. If you take them you could go on and maybe cause an upset.”

Bradley made a comfortable save to prevent Chaplin from scoring with a left-footed free-kick from 22-yards, which bounced once into the Mead keeper’s hands.

Bradley made a fine save in the fourteenth minute when he dived low to his right and stuck out his right arm to prevent Chaplin scoring, after the highly-rated striker played a swift one-two with Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, the younger brother of Arsenal’s Alex.

Portsmouth went close following their first corner, which was swung in by James Granger and the ball came out to Chaplin, who cracked his left-footed volley curling over the Thamesmead crossbar.

Chaplin then cracked an acrobatic hooked volley, which was comfortably caught by Bradley.

The impressive Portsmouth right-winger, Joseph-Buadi skipped past his man and split the Thamesmead defence for Chaplin to stroke his left-footed drive across goal and flashing just past the foot of the far post.

It was no surprise when Portsmouth doubled their lead in the 21st minute.

Joseph-Buadi was given the freedom of half of the pitch to burst forward, cut inside both McGarrigle and central defender Jordan Chidley before rifling his left-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from eight-yards.

Harris said: “He had the freedom of the pitch. I think they’re movement again down our right hand side, they really moved the ball around quick.  Our full-back was doubled up on and when he was doubled up on the boy took the ball, cut inside and the boy finished very, very smartly into the top corner.”

Thamesmead Town created their second chance of the night when Cicero Gleadall played the ball into Mulkerring, who cut into the penalty area and forced Alex Bass to make a low save to his left.

Portsmouth’s third goal swiftly followed in the 28th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain threaded the ball through to Chaplin, who drilled his shot past Bradley from sixteen-yards, punishing an open Mead back-four.

Harris said: “I just think it was a great piece of finishing by the boy up front to be honest with you.

“It’s a learning curve for us tonight. It’s learning for us. It’s learning for the boys.

“They’ve come off there tonight thinking ok but taking that on board. Maybe next time with a year’s development, next year in The FA Youth Cup, a year older we may well do well again.”

Granger drilled his right-footed shot narrowly over the top of the near post from 22-yards before Bradley used both his raised hands to push Oxlade-Chamberlain’s right-footed drive from 30-yards over the crossbar.

Joseph-Buadi and Chaplin linked up well to set up a chance for May, whose left-footed shot trickled into Bradley’s gloves for a comfortable save.

Thamesmead Town almost snatched a goal following their first corner of the game.

McGarrigle swung in a corner from the right and Bass dropped the ball at his near post but made amends when Harry Bradford came up from the back to stab  the ball straight at the goalkeeper in a scramble.

But Portsmouth raced into a 4-0 lead with 44 minutes on the clock.

Calvin Davies played the ball up from right-back to release Chaplin down the right and he cut inside before cutting the ball back to May, whose first time right-footed drive from 20-yards nestled inside the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Harris admitted: “To be fair I nipped into the dressing room at that stage because one of our players had a cut so I had to go and get something so I didn’t see that one.”

But to their credit, Thamesmead Town never gave up and pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time.

Gleadall worked hard down the left to get down the channel before cutting his low centre back to Keaveney, whose right-footed shot slipped through Bass’s fingers to find the far corner of the net.

When asked whether he saw the goal, Harris replied: “Yes. I saw our first one! It was a special moment.

“A good ball from Cicero, Jack controlled it. Yes, alright the goalkeeper should’ve dealt with it a little bit better but a club like us we’re going to take everything we can get and we were grateful for the fumble and for Jack it was great so we got a goal back.”

Thamesmead Town created another decent opportunity when the same two players combined again but this time Mulkerring flashed his left-footed drive across Bass and past the far post.

It was a near faultless display by Portsmouth, who didn’t commit one foul during the first half.

Harris said: “At half-time we just basically said we’re 4-1 down, we’re going to change the shape and go 4-4-2.  We’ve been a bit too open in the first half.

“We’ve given them too much respect. We’ve now got to really get in their faces, close the space down and make sure they don’t play from the back as well as they did in the first half and see if we can actually press them higher up the pitch and make them go long ball and second half we actually achieved that at times.

“We rolled up our sleeves second half, came out and we’ve given it a good go.”

Referee Peter Conn pointed to the spot when Bradford brought down May inside the box, but Chaplin blasted his left-footed penalty high over the bar after only 67 seconds.

Harris said: “We’ve actually said this is going in the top left-hand corner so we said he’ll hit it high and hard but we did think he’ll score.  Again, we’re quite grateful for that opportunity to go over.”

This miss lifted Thamesmead’s spirits for a while and Billy Armstrong cracked a left-footed drive straight at Bass from 25-yards, before Fredrick Cray set up Sutherland, whose right-footed drive sailed over from similar distance.

But Chaplin scored a sublime hat-trick goal in the 57th minute, latching onto a precise ball over the top to chip the ball over Bradley’s head and watched as the ball dropped down into the far corner.

Harris said: “Oh, that was just great movement. If you see his run he peeled off behind our full-back. He got into a great position and he might’ve seen the goalkeeper out of the corner of his eye and it was just a clinical piece of finishing.

“To me he was the best player on the pitch tonight. He showed that with his clinical finishing.”

Portsmouth’s other striker, Lewis Gill, cut in and stung Bradley’s gloves with a right-footed shot, which saw the Thamesmead keeper catch the ball at the second attempt.

Keaveney’s right-footed chip from 25-yards was caught by the Portsmouth keeper after the hour-mark.

Bradley made a decent save when he back-peddled to make sure that he pushed over Chaplin’s powerfully whipped in and curling free-kick in from the right, which was destined to curl into the top far corner.

But Thamesmead Town pulled a second goal back in the 69th minute, through a wonder strike from Mulkerring, 18, who could be a player pushing for a first team place in the not so distant future.

Cray played the ball into Mulkerring’s path, who unleashed a stunning left-footed curler from 30-yards, which sailed over Bass and dipped into the roof of the net.

“He’s got that in his armoury,” said Harris.

“He’s a good player. He’s very skilful, he’s tenacious. He wants to learn. Sometimes he needs to lift his head up a bit more but it was a great individual goal.

“As a manager sometimes you just want them to play that simple ball at times. Sometimes he just plays with his head down a bit too much, but he has got abundance of skill.

“I’d imagine if you were a scout sitting in the crowd tonight he’s going to be one of the players you (noticed) without a doubt.”

But Portsmouth damaged any chances of an unlikely Thamesmead Town fight-back when they scored goal number six just 41 seconds later.

Portsmouth skipper Haunstrup drilled his left-footed shot into the top far corner from 25-yards, which was helped in by the struggling Bradley.

“Another brilliant finish into the top corner. As soon as it left his boot it was in the back of the net,” said Harris.

“From our view as soon as the young man struck it, it was always going in. It was a great finish.

“They were quite clinical tonight. They could’ve mostly have scored two or three more but they were clinical without a doubt!”

Thamesmead Town scored their third goal of the game with sixteen minutes left.

Mulkerring and Cray linked up well on the right by-line and the ball was cut back for Keaveney to sweep a first time shot into the bottom right-hand corner.

Not many non-league sides get the opportunity to score three goals against Football League clubs.

“Freddie was the one who actually passed the ball to Jack and it was a good first time finish, slotting it into the bottom corner.

“He’s scored goals for fun lately so he’s confidence is high. He’s a strong, lovely player, great pace and when he’s on heat, he’s a right handful.”

Haunstrup exchanged a one-two with substitute Kaleem Haitham before dragging his shot past the foot of the far post from 20-yards, before Haitham penetrated the Mead defence and hit a shot on the run from 25-yards, which was caught by Bradley.

But Bradley could do nothing about Portsmouth’s seventh goal in the final eight minutes as substitute Bwakarambwe drilled a right-footed hooked volley into the top right-hand corner from 20-yards.

Harris, now sounding like a broken record, added: “Yes, again, another great finish is all I can really say.  They were clinical.”

Despite their thrashing, Harris can take comfort that his bravehearts kept going until the end.

Jake Try played the ball into substitute striker Ryan Thompson and he passed inside to midfielder Armstrong, whose left-footed chip dropped narrowly over the crossbar from 35-yards.

Bradley made two great saves to deny Haitham at the death

Firstly, Haitham received the ball from fellow substitute Liam Sayers, before cracking a powerful right-footed drive, which forced Bradley to dive to his left to push the ball over the bar.

Then Haitham’s right-footed curler forced Bradley to get down quickly low to his left to get a strong left hand to the low shot to push the ball around the post.

Harris praised his goalkeeper for keeping the score down.

“Max is a very good goalkeeper. He’s a great shot-stopper. He’s got great work ethic.  The boy really wants to learn. The one thing that he really has to improve on, which he will tell you himself, is his goal kicking but his actual shot stopping, I think is first class.

“He’s made five really good saves. Even right at the end he pulled off a great save virtually the last minute of the game, again keeping the score down to a bit of respectability.

“If we had come off 6-4, even 6-3, we would’ve gone home. It’s such a shame they got that seventh goal but again we’ll learn from this.

“To score three against a League outfit is a great achievement and you’ve got to look at Plymouth Argyle in the last round, they lost 4-0 to them so for us to actually breach them three times and maybe we could’ve had two more. We could’ve ended up scoring five against a pro club then I’ve got to say we should be proud of ourselves tonight.

“It’s over but we was never going to win the competition. We realistically knew that. This was a dream for us to get this far.  To get as far as we’ve done, to get to the second round proper, the last team standing in Kent, is a great achievement.

“We’ve now got to get on with what I call our real season so the fairytale’s over but now the bread and butter begins, which is what we’re all about now.

“We’re lying second in the Ryman Youth League, although we’ve got a game in hand and if we win that we go top and we’re top of the Kent Premier. We’re also in the quarter-finals of the League Cup so we’ve got three massive targets now for the rest of the season.

“I think if they really want it and they really work hard, which I think they do want it – I know that – I think we can win the two league’s this season.”

Thamesmead Town: Max Bradley, Jake Try, Billy McGarrigle, Billy Armstrong, Jordan Chidley (Ryan Mills 65), Harry Bradford, Cicero Gleadall (Ryan Thompson 46), Kieran Mulkerring (Elliot Usher 78), Jack Keaveney, Fredrick Cray, James Sutherland.
Subs: Kristen Mole, Samuel Orisatcki

Goals: Jack Keaveney 45, 74, Kieran Mulkerring 69

Booked: Jordan Chidley 18

Portsmouth: Alex Bass, Calvin Davies, Brandan Haunstrup, James Granger, Chad Field, Snorre Nilsen, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain (Fahad Bwakarambwe 46), Adam May, Lewis Gill, Conor Chaplin (Liam Sayers 77), Brandon Joseph-Buadi (Kaleem Haitham 57).
Subs: Monty George, Theo Widdrington

Goals: Conor Chaplin 3, 28, 57, Brandon Joseph-Buadi 21, Adam May 44, Brandan Haunstrup 70, Fahad Bwakarambwe 82

Attendance: 150
Referee: Mr Peter Conn (Gillingham)
Assistants: Mr Michael Marsh (Herne Bay) & Mr Jason Down (Sittingbourne)